With gun violence spiking and a cop's shooting death fresh in his mind, Mayor Mayor Eric Adams released a crime-fighting "blueprint" Monday that includes traditional measures like more cops on patrol but also seeks help from Congress.
As part of Adams's proposal, the NYPD will deploy plainclothes cops on modified anti-gun patrols in unmarked cars, and have fewer officers "on desk and staffing events where they are not needed." Instead, "The Blueprint to End Gun Violence" calls for more civilians to do NYPD administrative work and put additional "officers on patrol in key neighborhoods throughout the city."
Adams spelled out the plan Monday in a City Hall address where the former NYPD cop vowed to make good on a promise during his mayoral run to return the city to a safer time after several years of escalating violent crime.
"In New York, as your mayor, this is my number one priority, keeping you safe, I campaigned on it, I will deliver on it," Adams said in a speech lasting just over 22 minutes.
He acknowledged that his plan wouldn’t be a panacea for gun violence and relies on diverse elements — legislative changes in Albany and Washington — that are beyond his control.
"We will never stop," Adams said. "We will never stop fighting to protect New Yorkers."
The plan appeals to the federal government to do more to stop the flow of illegal guns into the city. It asks for "common-sense" universal background checks for firearm purchases, legislation passing a 'long overdue" national ban on assault weapons, and increasing penalties for moving guns across statelines.
Since Jan. 1, NYPD officers have confiscated 350 illegal guns off the street, Adams said. Last year, the department took 6,000 guns.
The suspect in the fatal ambush shooting Friday of NYPD Officer Jason Rivera Adams, had a ".45-caliber modified gun" and an "AK-style" gun under his bed, Adams said. Officer Wilbert Mora, shot and wounded in the Harlem shooting, remained hospitalized Monday in critical condition. The police said the gun used to shoot the officers had been stolen in Baltimore.
It was the fourth shooting in less than a week involving NYPD officers. On Jan. 18, a cop in the Bronx was shot in the leg as he struggled with a 16-year-old boy armed with a handgun that fired and hit them both, Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell said at the time. The bullet that hit the officer was fired from a 9 mm SIG Sauer that had been stolen in October 2020 in South Carolina, the NYPD said.
Early Thursday, a narcotics detective was shot in the leg on Staten Island during execution of a warrant in a drug case. Hours later, NYPD officers shot and killed and armed man in the Bronx.
The mayor's plan got immediate support from the Police Benevolent Association, but also criticism for not going far enough.
"In addition to the measures proposed today, we need an immediate rollback of the entire policy regime that penalizes police officers for proactively confronting lawbreakers," PBA president Patrick Lynch said in a statement, "and we need more resources to relieve the outstretched cops on the front lines."
Lynch was alluding to a drop in police strength through attrition and retirements, as well as budget ceilings after 2020s defund-the-police movement.
Adams's plan addresses 2019's controversial criminal reform legislation, which limited prosecution of certain nonviolent crimes, including ending bail requirements in some case. Adams plan states that judges should be allowed "to take dangerousness into account. New York is the only state in the country that does not allow a judge to detain a defendant who poses a threat to the community."
The mayor's speech came as the latest crime statistics show that so far in 2022, serious felonies, such a homicides, grand larceny, felonious assault and rape, have increased nearly 39% from the same period in 2021 when crime dropped had fallen by 19%. Shootings in the first weeks of the year have jumped nearly 24% over 2021.
Christopher Dunn, of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said the group wanted to study Adams' plan before commenting.
Newly-elected Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg Jr., who released a memo earlier this month stating that armed shoplifters could be downgraded to misdemeanor larceny offenders in certain cases, praised the plan.
"We have lost too many loved ones to gun violence, and these incidents have traumatized families and created fear throughout the city," Bragg said in a statement. "Combating gun violence is a top priority for our office and I applaud Mayor Adams’ leadership, commitment, and focus on this issue. We will partner with the Mayor and all who will join us in the urgent tasks of getting drivers of crime off our streets, cutting off the flow of illegal guns to our city, and building up community-based supports for people who are struggling."
Among other key elements of the plan: ramping of police in the subways, focusing stepped-up patrols on 30 police precinct where 80% of the violence occurs, use of facial recognition to spot those carrying weapons, expanded anti-violence crisis management teams and increase summer youth job opportunities.
"We cannot wait until moments of crisis to protect our communities," the plan states on one of its 15 pages. "We must also address the symptoms of these challenges, and help our young people on a better path long before they pick up a gun."
Adams' plan will take years to implement and face pushback from some in the more progressive City Council, said Joseph Giacalone, a John Jay College of Criminal Justice professor.
Part of the crime increase has been driven by emboldened young criminals who are not afraid of the criminal justice system because of difficulties bringing cases to trial during the COVID-19 pandemic, Giacalone said, which the mayor acknowledged Monday.
"This pandemic has frayed the social safety net at all levels and has had a long lasting damaging impact on our criminal justice system," Adams said.